Tuesday, 10 September 2013


I am lucky enough to live in an old village that hasn't been developed to death. It's a place surrounded by countryside and behind my house we have acres and acres of open wheat and crop fields.

That gorgeous view was slightly hidden as a wild lilac tree at the back of our low dry-stone wall had rooted and grown to become quite a monster. But now the landscape has been opened up to reveal it's breath taking glory as the farmer who lives up the road, and who keeps the land, clipped his hedgerows and felled the tree on request from one of our neighbours.

The problem was that once it had gone then our garden was hit by lots of extra sunlight and it suddenly looked a bit of an overgrown mess. We had a couple of days of hard graft tidying it all up, pulling out weeds, digging the flower beds, pulling up the last of the potatoes, and pruning the honeysuckle bush that had also got a bit wild and out of control. My husband wasn't best pleased initially that the lilac tree had gone because he makes wine with the flowers every year. However, as we are not big drinkers then what we have in stock will surely last until the tree grows back - or we can forage for it elsewhere.

As I pulled out some plants that grow under my poorly greengage plum tree, which we have also made wine from in its healthier days, I spotted many hairy yellow and black creepy crawlies like that pictured above.

The insect turned out to be the Lady Bird larvae which is a great friend of gardeners. It might just save our tree which has been horribly attacked by aphids for a few years now. We had decided to chop it down this year but Nature's Salvation in sending us her ready made army of pest control means that it might just get a reprieve until next year when I hope it will be in better shape.

Ladybird larvae eat 1,200 aphids each in their lifetime. The beetle parents lay millions of eggs so I guess there is a good chance that the tree will recover. It's been in our garden longer than us or our neighbours can remember so it would be an awful shame if it had to go.

One thing that did strike me, though, as I searched the web to find out what these insects were, was how we would manage today without Google and what we did before it made finding anything suddenly easy.

I think I would have looked in a few general reference books and hoped to have found it. But as I don't have any in my library specifically about insects, then I would probably have shown it to my neighbours - if they were about at the time I found it - or asked my friends who are not insect experts either.

More than likely, I would have done as the short cartoon below illustrates, cut down my tree and forgotten all about it.

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